Matt Rhule is leaving Baylor to become the next head coach of the Carolina Panthers. The move to the NFL ends Rhule’s successful three-year stint in Waco. The Bears went 1-11 in Rhule’s first season but improved to 7-6 in 2018 and jumped to 11-3 with an appearance in the Big 12 title game and Sugar Bowl this year. Rhule isn’t leaving the cupboard bare, as the next head coach inherits a talented offense and enough pieces to contend for a spot near the top of the Big 12.
Who could replace Rhule at Baylor? Here are 11 names (in alphabetical order) to watch in the coaching search:
11 Coaching Candidates to Replace Matt Rhule at Baylor
Blake Anderson, Head Coach, Arkansas State
Anderson’s name reportedly popped up at Baylor during the last coaching search and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him mentioned once again. Since taking over at Arkansas State, Anderson is 47-30 overall and has guided the program to six bowl appearances. The Red Wolves are 36-12 in Sun Belt play and have won at least seven games in each of Anderson’s six seasons.
Dave Aranda, Defensive Coordinator, LSU
Aranda’s name popped up in the UNLV search this offseason, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him mentioned for this vacancy. As one of the top defensive coordinators in college football, Aranda makes $2.5 million a year. Needless to say, it would take a perfect fit for him to leave Baton Rouge. Aranda has worked as a defensive coordinator at Hawaii (2010-11), Utah State (2012), Wisconsin (2013-15), and LSU (2016). The Tigers have consistently ranked among the nation’s best on defense throughout Aranda’s watch.
Sonny Dykes, Head Coach, SMU
Dykes has extensive ties to the state of Texas and is 15-11 since taking over as SMU’s head coach during the bowl game in 2017. The Mustangs went 5-7 in Dykes’ first full year (2018) but improved to 10-3 this year. Dykes previously went 19-30 at California from 2013-16 and 22-15 at Louisiana Tech from 2010-12.
Tony Elliott, Co-Offensive Coordinator, Clemson
Clemson already lost one offensive assistant (Jeff Scott) to a head-coaching position. Could Baylor take a look at the other co-coordinator? Elliott has worked as an assistant at Clemson since 2011 and is regarded for his work on offense and on the recruiting trail. After coaching running backs from 2011-14, Elliott took over the play-calling duties when Chad Morris left for SMU prior to the 2015 campaign. Under Elliott’s watch, Clemson has not ranked lower than third in the ACC in scoring and led the conference twice (2018-19). Elliott does not have any previous experience as a head coach.
Luke Fickell, Head Coach, Cincinnati
It’s doubtful Fickell will leave Cincinnati for Baylor, but we have to mention him here since the program should at least gauge his interest in the opening. Fickell is 26-13 at Cincinnati and has won at least 11 games in back-to-back years. The Bearcats should be the favorite to win the AAC in 2020. Fickell has spent his entire coaching career in the state of Ohio.
Willie Fritz, Head Coach, Tulane
Fritz isn’t in any hurry to leave Tulane, but Baylor would be wise to at least inquire about his level of interest. The Kansas native has been a winner at every stop during his coaching career. He went 97-47 at Central Missouri from 1997-2009, 40-15 at Sam Houston State (2010-13), 17-7 at Georgia Southern (2014-15), and is 23-27 through four years at Tulane. The Green Wave won nine games in Fritz’s first two seasons but have improved that total to 14 over the last two. Additionally, Tulane has won back-to-back bowl games for the first time in program history.
Bryan Harsin, Head Coach, Boise State
Harsin played his college ball at Boise State, so it would take a lot for him to leave his alma mater. Since replacing Chris Petersen at Boise State in 2014, Harsin is 64-17 overall and 40-8 in Mountain West play. The Broncos have won at least 10 games in five out of Harsin’s six years. He also had a one-year stint at Arkansas State in 2013 (7-5).
Skip Holtz, Head Coach, Louisiana Tech
Holtz has been a consistent winner throughout his coaching career, as his overall record sits at 144-107 after the 2019 season. Since taking over at Louisiana Tech in 2013, Holtz is 56-36 overall and guided the Bulldogs to a 10-win season in ’19. He previously went 16-21 at USF but went 38-27 at East Carolina (2005-09) and 34-23 at UConn (34-23).
Joey McGuire, Assistant Coach, Baylor
McGuire joined Matt Rhule’s staff in 2017 and spent two years coaching tight ends before moving to defensive ends this season. Prior to coming to Baylor, McGuire was a successful high school coach in the state of Texas. He went 141-42 at Cedar Hill High School from 2013-16. McGuire doesn’t have any experience at the FBS level outside of his stint at Baylor, but promoting him to head coach would ensure continuity.
Jeff Monken, Head Coach, Army
Monken runs the option, but it’s safe to assume he would tweak that style a bit if hired at a Power 5 program. After guiding Georgia Southern to a 38-16 mark from 2010-13, Monken is 40-36 at Army since 2014. The Black Knights posted three consecutive winning records and made bowl trips from 2016-18. Additionally, the program posted back-to-back double-digit win seasons (2017-18).
Billy Napier, Head Coach, Louisiana
Napier’s name popped up in the search at Mississippi State, but all signs seem to point to another year at Louisiana. However, Baylor should inquire about his level of interest. The Georgia native worked as an assistant under Dabo Swinney at Clemson and at Alabama for Nick Saban, along with stops at Colorado State and Arizona State before becoming the head coach at Louisiana. The Ragin’ Cajuns are 18-10 under Napier’s watch (2018-19) and have claimed the Sun Belt West Division title in back-to-back seasons. Napier is a rising star to watch over the next couple of years.